Naming Fred W. Stockham–St. Louis Post 4

12, November 2016
Photo of American Legion pin from World War IWorld War I American Legion pin of Bernhard J. Bonnarens. Missouri History Museum.

Around Veterans Day, I’m always reminded of the long-running connections St. Louis has with veterans' organizations, specifically the American Legion. St. Louis played host to the first domestic caucus of the American Legion in 1919, and it was here that the organization adopted its constitution. Many American Legion posts are named in honor of individuals with connections to the Legion's founding members. One such post is Fred W. Stockham–St. Louis Post 4.

Photo of Fred W. StockhamFred W. Stockham, gunnery sergeant, hero, and namesake of a local American Legion post. Image courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.

Fred W. Stockham was born in Detroit, Michigan, and joined the U.S. Marine Corps in 1903 at the age of 22. He served his first tours of duty in the Philippines and China and was honorably discharged in 1907 before reenlisting in 1912. He served a brief time in Nicaragua, rising to the rank of sergeant, before once again being discharged in May 1916. He then reenlisted for a third time and was sent with the 6th Marine Regiment to France in February 1918.

Gunnery Sergeant Stockham and the 6th Marine Regiment were part of the fierce fighting that took place during the Battle of Belleau Wood in June 1918. Stockham’s courage and compassion guided him in saving a fellow soldier from certain death—an act that cost him his life and posthumously earned him the Medal of Honor. His Medal of Honor Citation reads:

During an intense enemy bombardment with high explosive and gas shells which wounded or killed many members of the company, G/Sgt. Stockham, upon noticing that the gas mask of a wounded comrade was shot away, without hesitation, removed his own gas mask and insisted upon giving it to the wounded man, well knowing that the effects of the gas would be fatal to himself. He continued with undaunted courage and valor to direct and assist in the evacuation of the wounded, until he himself collapsed from the effects of gas, dying as a result thereof a few days later. His courageous conduct undoubtedly saved the lives of many of his wounded comrades and his conspicuous gallantry and spirit of self-sacrifice were a source of great inspiration to all who served with him.

Photo of Barak MattinglyBarak Mattingly, ca. 1925–1935. Photo by J. C. Strauss Studio. Missouri History Museum.

The wounded comrade Stockham saved that day was St. Louisan Barak Mattingly. After the war, Mattingly went on to serve as an attorney, a member of the Missouri legislature, and the chairman of the Republican National Committee of St. Louis. He was also one of the founders of American Legion Post 245, which was chartered in June 1919. To memorialize Stockham saving Mattingly, Post 245 was named Fred W. Stockham Post. In 1976, Post 245 merged with St. Louis Post 4, forming Fred W. Stockham–St. Louis Post 4.

The navy also honored Stockham's memory with the naming of two ships: the USS Stockham (DD-683), named during World War II, and the USNS GYSGT Fred W. Stockham (T-AK-3017), renamed in 2001.

—Patrick Allie, Military and Arms Curator

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